Thursday, the University of Michigan Board of Regents convened at the University’s Dearborn campus for their May session. The regents approved construction projects for the new athletic campus and discussed the building of a new golf clubhouse.
Construction project approvals
Regents approved the schematic design and authorization to award construction contracts for the new Stephen M. Ross Athletic Campus, funded in part by funds donated by Ross in September 2013.
The athletic campus will feature a 280,000-square-foot space, and will host home, regional and national competitions. The new campus will house facilities for the University’s track and field, cross-country, lacrosse and women’s rowing teams.
The project also includes plans for an outdoor track and field competition venue, which will be able to hold a maximum of 500 spectators. The plan also calls for a lacrosse stadium and an indoor track venue, each capable of holding 2,000 spectators.
The estimated cost of the project is $168 million. Construction is set to be complete by the winter of 2018.
The new facility will also include two large digital billboards, though a project architect confirmed it will not face State Street. City residents have issued complaints regarding the digital billboard near the entrance to the Michigan Stadium located on East Stadium Boulevard.
“Along State Street, there is a video board at the center of lacrosse, because they have to see what’s happening, and then there is also another video board on the very south end at the center of the radius of the track, so the board faces the track itself. It’s not like the stadium, where we’re facing the street,” an architect of the construction project said.
In the September meeting, the regents approved initial plans for the project.
“What I appreciate about the proposal is the holistic approach that it takes,” University President Mark Schlissel said at the time. “It allows us to address a number of important needs across these teams simultaneously.”
Regents also approved constructing a new Biological Science Building for teaching, research and museum space. The new building will house research laboratories and classroom spaces for the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology departments.
The new building is estimated to cost approximately $261 million and will be complete by 2018.
The building will be connected to the Life Sciences Institute Building on Washtenaw Avenue.
Clubhouse renovation prompts discussion
Regents, however, did not approve plans to construct a new golf course clubhouse, marking the first major discussion and disagreement the board had over an agenda item.
The clubhouse project would replace the current golf course clubhouse by expanding operational functions, increasing energy efficiency and creating spacious banquet facilities to be used by the entire University community. The project is estimated to cost $15 million.
Regents asked numerous questions regarding the project, and although at first they unanimously voted to approve the project, several regents changed their vote, first to 5 to 3 in favor, before Schlissel decided not to vote.
Regent Andrew Richner (R–Grosse Pointe Park) said he personally did not like the design, saying it didn’t feel appropriate for a University.
“I don’t want my personal feelings to get in the way of this, but I just don’t like it,” he said.
Regent Mark Bernstein (D–Ann Arbor) concurred with Richner, saying he did not like the design for reasons regarding “culture.”
President Schlissel seemed to grow aggravated by the discussion, saying the regents had changed their votes after casting them. He invited Interim Athletic Director Jim Hackett to give more information regarding the schematic. Hackett maintained his support for the plan and the updated architecture.
“For me, what I love about Michigan is this notion about smart before anything. This is very smart architecture,” Hackett said.
Although Regent Katherine White (D–Ann Arbor) moved to table the proposal. The motion tied, leading to a non-vote on the clubhouse. The regents will discuss the proposal at a later meeting.
The regents approved the project in July 2014. Thursday, however, was the first time the regents had seen the schematics on the new clubhouse.
The heavy discussion marks the first time in 2015 regents publicly debated a topic on the agenda. The Detroit Free Press recently sued the University over violations of the Open Meetings Act, claiming the board usually holds discussions in private and the voting processes during official meetings are just a formality.
State legislators recently introduced a bill to require all governing board meetings be open to public inspection, changing the wording that currently says only “formal sessions” of governing boards be open to “all meetings.”
A number of faculty members were awarded promotions at the regents meeting, including David Turnley, who is associate professor in the School of Art & Design, and Martha Jones, who is a co-director of the Law School’s Program in Race, Law & History, associate chair in the Department of Afroamerican and African Studies, and an associate professor of history.
Turnley is a photojournalist known on campus for documenting football coach Jim Harbaugh’s first year at the University. Harbaugh tweets Turnley’s photos out along with highlights from the team’s spring training.
Turnley has also photographed events such as the aftermath of 9/11, Nelson Mandela’s time in prison and the fall of the Soviet Union. He won a Pulitzer Prize in 1990 for his photos documenting the political uprisings in China and Eastern Europe.
Jones has published books on the antebellum period in American history and the Atlantic slave trade. She says her next book is about the history of race relations in Baltimore, Maryland.
The regents also approved nine faculty members as distinguished University professors, including Joel Blum, professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences, and Dentistry Prof. Peter Polverini.